How do you learn vocabulary besides WK and should I start already?

Hello hello,

as you can guess I am still pretty new to WK but am making my way to level 3 tomorrow. So far I am in love with the whole process of learning japanese, it’s been a long time I was so into something.

Anyway, today I’ve read that one should see WaniKani as a way to learn Kanji and some vocab while doing so. If you really wanna know more words and want to push further you gotta learn vocab besides WK.

So here I’ve got some question: is it really like that? I mean there are 6000+ vocabs on WK.

But more interesing for me: how do you learn?

For me, I would like to learn vocabs on paper, writing them down, grabbing them when I have some time and motivation and do it a little bit the easy chilled way.

Looking forward to what you think about that.


Personally, I’m just reading books and am relying on seeing a word enough times that I remember it. It does work.

But, a lot of people like things like Anki, it’s SRS just like WaniKani. is another SRS.


Indeed, but they are kanji focused. You won’t learn a word unless it is for learning the kanji that it contains. This immediately removes kana-only words from the possibilities (a major part of which is the katakana words that are used). It also means, that certain rarer words are taught before more common words. また, which is a common kana-only word is taught on level 52 I believe, because you won’t see it ever as a kanji, and that’s exactly what’s taught to you.

I personally use the core 2k/6k anki deck alongside wanikani, because generally speaking, though not perfect as it has odd, dated words, it still is a good resource. Some people just read or watch japanese content a ton, and mine words from there into their own srs deck, that’s useful in the sense, that you’ll quickly get to know the most common vocabulary a show or book tends to use. I don’t do this, because when I read, looking up words is already a break from the flow of the book, and I don’t want to make it bigger by converting this into a vocab card.

You also have the option of just immersing yourself in enough content, which works great if you have a lot of free time you are willing to “sacrifice”. This is the same method you learned your native language as a child (which doesn’t mean it’s the best).


There are a lot of words in the Japanese language, and WK only prioritizes ones that will help you learn the kanji they teach, even if you’ll rarely (if ever) see them in the wild. There are also a lot that are kana-only, which WK doesn’t teach.

There are lots of different ways that people learn vocab off WK. Many swear by Anki—there are a lot of premade decks, including most-frequent words and kana-only words; and/or they’ll make their own decks from words they come across in the wild and want to learn. I personally found Anki very user-unfriendly though so it doesn’t work for me, but it does seem to work for a lot of people.

I use KameSame, which is similar to WK but tests you on production + recall, rather than pronunciation + meaning. It connects to WK and you can get extra practice on words and kanji you’ve learned on WK after they’ve reached a certain stage if you so desire (default is Guru, I have it at Burned), and it has several vocab lists plus a search feature that lets you add words manually.

BunPro, if you use (or later start using) that for grammar, has recently started adding vocab as well, and it includes a lot that’s not on WK, including kana-only vocab. That also connects to WK, and you can choose to sync your WK vocab with it so you don’t have to go through it again.

Some people will just learn vocab by reading and looking up unknown words as they go without making SRS flashcards for them, whether that means they bookmark them in the dictionary app they use, write them down on paper, make physical flashcards, etc. (I’m also in this camp. SRS might be more efficient, but it’s also easy to get burned out, so there are periods where I’ll slow way down on my SRSs and not add anything except maybe 5-10 items on WK if I think I can handle it.)

It all depends on your learning style and what works best for you (and how much you can handle—you’ll have to be careful not to take on too much and burn yourself out), but you will absolutely have to learn vocab outside of WK at some point, regardless of how you go about it.


Ah right, one thing to mention here, some e-readers have a function, that takes the words you looked up and puts them into a flashcard system. Kindle for sure has this, I’ve heard kobo has something like it as well. It’s also a way to look back on words you needed to look up, if you want something quick and painless.

Drops isn’t a terrible app if you’re looking for something app based with vocabulary, and since you pick a topic you can focus on the stuff that is of more interest to you. I use DuoLingo too, even though I know everyone here hates it. I really like the idea of the netflix extension folks have recommended that will let you see two sets of subtitles on the page, but I haven’t personally tried it yet.

Like everyone mentioned there’s plenty of non-kanji words so yeah you definitely need to study other vocab as well, but depends on your goals when you need to start. I’m level 15 on WK and I’m just starting a class to work through Genki now. So I’m going to be working on vocab in conjunction with grammar. Then I’ll see how much time I have to do anything extra on top of that and WK.


Drops is fun but I think its main use would be if you were going to visit Japan and wanted some basic vocabulary. I don’t think it’s great as a main source of vocab. However, it’s VERY fun so I don’t think it’s a bad thing to do.

A million times this. I really don’t get this “mining” shit. If I’m reading, I want to do just that, read. Not whack something into an SRS, come back to the material and be like “great, only 9 words until I have to stop reading again”.
If I must do SRS, there is no doubt I’d pick a pre-made any day.

Having said that, I think there could be value in adding more obscure vocab to an SRS once you don’t need to keep stopping. Immersion is a great SRS except for the obscure stuff.


Definately see where you are coming from and I also don’t sentence mine however, there are dictionary apps that allows you to export your saved words directly into Anki (Takoboto even adds an example sentence from their database). So you can read, look up words and not even think about any SRS system, but whenever you feel like it you can export all the words you’ve looked up and it’ll automatically make the cards.

Not suggesting to add Anki to your method but there are a few fairly streamlined ways to add your words into Anki without taking you away from your material :slight_smile:


Oh yeah I’m sure it’s not great as a main source, just depends on your goals. It’s not one I do daily, but if I’m caught up on WK and just looking to kill some time I think it’s a fun way to add/reinforce some words. I’m sure it’s not particularly helpful at more advanced stages of studying, but when you’re beginning and just trying to brute force all the info into your brain it feels like anything that’ll get you to spend a little more time learning is helpful. But if you’re one of the folks on this board who’s already talking about spending hours doing immersion and stuff every day, it isn’t going to be better than that.

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You do get to learn 股 (また, crotch) at level 34, though… :joy:


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I find Torii really helpful! Same SRS build but without a focus on mnemonics (though you can enter your own hints as needed). It’s free and available to download on PC or as an app. Highly recommend as you can either do their 10K vocab order or learn by JLPT order. I got really overwhelmed by reviews on it so I’ve slowed down a bit but I learned lots of new words.
And the font randomizer is a cool feature, you can download many styles of fonts and do your reviews with them changing every few words. Some are really loose cursive handwriting.


I’m thoroughly enjoying the Japanese like a breeze Anki deck. Very fun and a good complement to WK in my opinion. Makes you work on grammar and seeing vocab in context.

I roughly follows the grammar order of the Tae Kim Japanese grammar guide which is available for free online or as a pdf.

Your definitely can’t rely on wanikani to teach you the core vocab since it’ll teach you 外交 at level 5 but 誰 at level 43 and ここ never. That’s not to say that the vocabulary taught isn’t valuable, but the order is not optimal.


I meant to reply to the original poster, I’m bad at this.

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Wanikani is like the starter pack to get you into Japanese. It will help get you to a point where you can navigate the language without having to stop and search up every single word/kanji you come across.

Once you have 6,000 words from WK under your belt, and assuming you were also reading and using the language along the way, you should come out of level 60 with 10k+ words that you’re at least familiar with. Now at this point, you should be able to read with ease, meaning you can also search up new words in Japanese and understand the Japanese definitions. To me this has a compounding benefit much greater than sitting through an extra 20,000 word deck on anki.

The best way to learn new vocab is by making the language a part of your life. Slowly exchange your every day tasks with Japanese equivalents. For example, create a new YT account and only watch Japanese videos, so that that will be all the algorithm recommends to you; instead of Quora, use 知恵袋; instead of BBC news, use NHK news; instead of ENG>JP dictionaries, use JP>JP, have a question you need to google? Do it in Japanese.

You will eventually reach a point where using Japanese day-to-day will become more beneficial to you compared to studying using your current language.

When I started, I mainly used Tofugu and Maggie Sensei.

For grammar, I strongly recommend Cure Dolly.

And if you like the fast paced style of SRS, Bunpro is also great for grammar.


In the past, I have done Wanikani and Core 10k, as well as read a lot example sentences with translation, but I am not sure I would recommend that.

In recent history, I find Kanji knowledge, from Wanikani and a little more, useful for guessing meanings. Extensive looking-up, in a numerous amount, in a dictionary helped a lot for latter reading. I am not sure if exporting to SRS (Anki) is needed, even if I may forget some items.

So, I would emphasize on Kanji. There is also a thing about word roots, but it is hard to find a collection and learn that – and they aren’t necessarily frequency vocabularies.

My idea have become of doing intensive and extensive reading concurrently, or alternately.

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I tried to write vocab down on paper but it was far from anything easy and chill, SRS just meshes better with me since I can just push buttons on my keyboard and learn words because I’m lazy as hell. I could see paper and pencil working for leeches though.

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Seconding drops as a easy and free way to fill in common vocab, especially stuff off WK

Here’s my full review. Drops, Extensive Review after 1 Year of Use

What makes you say that? There are so many different categories and so many of them don’t relate much to tourism.

This I agree with though. I feel drops in combo with WK gives pretty good coverage vocab-wise.

SRS is still worthwhile, but I might recommend a few resources that you could use to guide your notetaking…

  • There are a few vocabulary books, including N5, N4, N3, N2, and N1 books. These can be hit/miss, but they are a resource

  • There are also textbooks. Minna no Nihongo, Genki, and Tobira each have vocab sets, with grammar (usage) and thematic organization. The intermediate books also have vocabulary, obviously.

  • Then there are graded readers that come with footnoted vocabulary built into the reading, which is easier to your reading process than mining.

  • Then there’s always listening practice, which can be a great way to notice new vocabulary.

My approach is not systematic, but it does seem to work (slowly) in an accumulative effect…